Sentential subject constraint

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Sentential Subject Constraint is one of the constraints on movement proposed by Ross (1967). It states that

No element dominated by an S may be moved out of that S if that S is dominated by an NP which itself is immediately dominated by S,

and is meant to capture the fact that categories cannot be moved out of a sentential subject.


Consider (i) and (ii), both containing a sentential subject (the for-clause and the that-clause respectively).

(i)  [for Haarhuis to beat Becker] is easy
(ii) [that Haarhuis beat Becker] pleased us

The Sentential Subject Constraint now correctly predicts that wh-movement of Becker out of the sentential subject leads to ungrammaticality:

(i')  *	Who is [for Haarhuis to beat t] easy?
(ii') *	Who did [that Haarhuis beat t] please us?

The Sentential Subject Constraint falls under the Subject condition of Huang's (1982) Condition on Extraction Domain.


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Huang, James 1982. Move wh in a language without wh-movement, Linguistic review, 369-416
  • Ross, J.R. 1967. Constraints on variables in syntax, doctoral dissertation, MIT (published as 'Infinite syntax!' Ablex, Norwood (1986)).